For someone who has borne the brunt of social media attacks, social justice journalist Ginger Gorman takes a not-so-common attitude towards dealing with her attackers.
“I became very curious about the motivations of trolls and who they were and what they were trying to achieve, so I went and interviewed a whole load of them and it was quite an enlightening process,” she said.
Ginger came under a sustained social media barrage following an interview that changed her life. In the course of her everyday journalistic endeavours, Ginger interviewed a same-sex couple who appeared to be happily raising a child. The truth was much darker, and only came to light much later.
The men interviewed were arrested and convicted for the sexual abuse of their own child and the resulting social media firestorm dragged Ginger into the angry reach of an online lynch mob. She was blamed, incorrectly, for supporting the men.
“It was an orchestrated online hate campaign that ostensibly was the product of the article that I’d written about those two dads, who turned out to be paedophiles, and the trolls were accusing me of being a paedophile enabler.”
The experience impacted Ginger on multiple levels, first and foremost being her concern for the abused child.
“He was a gorgeous little boy … I carry around a grief for him and I always will and I always wonder about him and how his life will turn out. I don’t think that will ever go away,” she said.
Compounding that grief were the sustained online attacks and abuse that included physical threats against herself and her family.
But Ginger did not retreat, or respond in kind. She chose a different path.
“I don’t really believe in an eye for an eye. You don’t really want to stoop to their level. I didn’t want that to turn me into someone that wants to hurt another person. I believe in social justice. I want society to be fairer.”
Ginger embarked on a campaign to make the online media world a safer place for everyone, a campaign that formed the topic for her TEDxCanberra presentation. In her sights are not individuals, or even online mobs, but law enforcement, workplaces and social media companies.
“Legislation exists, but often authorities will not act on it. They think that the online world is different to the offline world, and frankly, it is not. If someone is threatening me with rape and murder, I’m going to be afraid if it’s online, I’m going to be afraid if it’s offline. So there’s a gap there that the authorities don’t breach. They need to work a lot harder in my view to investigate and prosecute,” she said.
“Workplaces [also] need to take this very seriously. They need to implement social media self-defence training. And social media companies have been quite lax until now. There’s a few positive signs that they’re doing something. But, they must protect people online and they’re not really doing enough.”